Improving and maintaining strength is a must for runners looking to optimize performance and minimize injury. Now, if all you do is lift weights with the intention of becoming a better runner you will have a problem. Making the time a few days a week to strength train will pay noticeable dividends in your running. Strength training does not need to take up a lot of your time, and there are countless ways to incorporate it into your schedule.
It is important to note that with each stride you must withstand a force 2.5-3 X your body weight, on one leg. Strength training will increase the amount of force you can produce and withstand, as well as decrease your risk of injury. It improves connective tissue strength, joint resiliency and perceived level of exertion, which can translate into a longer and faster runs while prolonging your running career.
Weight training is not cardio! The biggest mistake runners make when they weight train is that they train for muscular endurance. I suppose most figure since are endurance athletes they must weight train as such. STOP! Train endurance when you run, train strength in the gym. The last thing you want to do is contribute to the muscle break down with higher reps in the gym.
Similar to speed training, strength training will maximize fibre recruitment within the muscles. Something distance running does not do. Since strength training recruits more muscle fibres for a particular load, the adaptations are more neurological, so gaining unwanted size should not be a topic of conversation.
This can be achieved through low repetitions, ideally no more than 5 reps. Plenty of rest, at least 90 seconds. Aim for 5 sets of each exercise. Use a weight where at your fifth rep you feel you can still muster out a few more. Leaving a few reps in the tank won’t leave you feeling depleted.
Low Reps (around 5)
More Rest (90 seconds)
More Sets (4 to 5, or more)
Please note that this is just a general guideline for you to follow. With the exercises listed below there is a good number of combinations to give you a sustained training stimulus.
The focus of your work should fall within the 5 main movements:
Lower Body Press - Squat variations, Back Lunge, Step-up
Lower Body Pull - Deadlift, Romanian Deadlift, Kettlebell swing
Upper Body Press - Shoulder press, push-press, bench press (bar or bell), push-up
Upper Body Pull - Bent-over row variations, Pull-up variations, Pull-downs
Pillar & Location training - Turkish Get-up, Loaded carry variations, Palov press, Bear Crawl
Ensure that all movements are done well before incorporating challenging loads. If weight lifting is foreign to you I advice seeking help from a professional. Master the movements then progressively add loads that will start to challenge you in that 5 rep range.
Since you are not a strength athlete, any combination of the above 5 movements 2 times a week will be great.
Posterior and Anterior Chain Training
Monday - Upper & Lower Body Pull Day (posterior chain day)
Thursday - Upper & Lower Body Push Day (anterior chain day)
Saturday - Pillar day
Cross Pattern Training
Tuesday - Upper Body Push & Lower Body Pull & Turkish Get-ups
Saturday - Upper Body Pull & Lower Body Push & Loaded Carries
Push / Pull Upper & Lower Body Days
My favourite mode of training is using kettlebells due to their versatility. A kettlebell swing is great because it has a high velocity. Using the same weight, the force can be altered by how quickly you accelerate the bell toward your body. It is also great for those who struggle to make it to the gym, again due to the versatility it provides and the minimal space required.
Just as I stress technique before training with running, it is more important with weight training as the loads are greater and can do more harm. But don’t let that stop you, go ask a trainer at your gym to watch your form. Now go lift!